Scorpius Dance Theatre’s ‘Rock’ at Phoenix Theatre is drama in dance

The Valley is so lucky to have something as innovative as Scorpius Dance Theatre to bring unique theater-based dance to the stage. In their new production Rock, at Phoenix Theatre tonight, Friday, June 26, and tomorrow, Saturday, June 27, founder and choreographer Lisa Starry (whom you can learn all about here on Phoenix People) focuses on emotional narratives to drive the production, featuring vignettes on everything from lust and love to mental health.

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The nearly 20-person cast powered through more than a dozen dance numbers, set to ʾ60s, ʾ70s, and ʾ80s hits such as The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”, “Across the Universe” by The Beatles, and “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp. Solo electric guitarist Chadwick Steinmetz played shredding solo sets, opening the show with Jim Hendrix’s rocking version of the “Star Spangled Banner” and coming back on stage throughout the show to play.

The varieties of dances on display were vast, ranging from the flamenco during The Doors’ “Spanish Caravan” (you can learn about dancer Carlos Montufar here on Phoenix People), to the sexy and sultry moves in the comedic odd-person-out story during Van Halen’s “Pretty Woman”. There were some big company numbers where myriad dancers moved at once, but I love that Starry and her fellow choreographers created dances based on stories, giving audiences plots to follow even though there was no dialogue.

I really appreciated the inclusion of a dance featuring a pair of male dancers, as well as an all-male dance to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” which featured a hot teacher in drag. During Joan Jett’s “Do You Wanna Touch,” all the male dancers deftly moved wearing high heels I would never even be able to walk in. Every dancer throughout the show seemed like they were having an absolute blast on stage, and that enthusiasm was contagious as it reached the audience.

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Besides the dancing, the aerial stunts in the show were amazing, including hanging from the ceiling by robe and fabric, and swinging through a hoop. The show also included a couple of really fun and beautifully produced videos, one featuring a dancer and her daughter, and another featuring the whole cast in hair metal garb at a roller rink. There were also some eye-catching costumes in the live show, making for a production that was constantly stimulating.

Every show I’ve seen by Scorpius Dance Theatre has been top-notch, and this one has to be my favorite so far. Tickets are $30 for shows tonight and tomorrow – get them here.

Phoenix Ballet’s ‘Rising’ at Mesa Arts Center awes

Last night, the Phoenix Ballet put on an emotional, innovative, entertaining performance melding traditional and contemporary ballet dance styles in its Rising show at Mesa Arts Center. The performance included five segments by five different choreographers, with music ranging from Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” to a very cute and humorous take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterThe hour-and-a-half show touched on themes including love and death, with a cast of about a dozen graceful dancers whose technical movements never ceased to amaze. Their second show, today at 2 p.m. at Mesa Arts Center, is inexpensive to attend for the level of talent you’ll see — tickets start at only $20.

Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center

The nonprofit takes its act on the road next to the Sedona Performing Arts Center on Thursday, May 21, then to Poland for the Lodz International Ballet Festival May 26 and May 27. The troupe has more in store for the Valley, too, and I can’t wait to see what’s next by this group whose talent is reaching worldwide destinations.

Learn more about Phoenix Ballet here, and get tickets to today’s show here.

Scorpius Dance Theatre brings Duran Duran to Phoenix Theatre

Duran Duran music lovers were treated to a band extravaganza this past weekend during Scorpius Dance Theatre‘s Catwalk at Phoenix Theatre. The show featured two Duran Duran-themed acts, first with a slew of dances choreographed by Scorpius founder Lisa Starry (whom you can learn more about on Phoenix People here), then with live music by Duran Duran tribute band Rio.

Rio Duran Duran tribute band

Scorpius has been entertaining Valley dance lovers for 15 years now, and their shows are fun, colorful and full of talent. The troupe of more than 20 members has plenty of adept hot bodies, including aerial specialists who flew around the stage on ropes and hoops to add a cool layer to the show.

Scorpius Dance Theatre at Phoenix Theatre

I am not super-familiar with Duran Duran music, but I really enjoyed the show because the music was upbeat and lent itself to eye-catching moves. There was a sexy bedroom scene, an intense aerial solo, and lots of group numbers that showed off toned glutes under short skirts.

Starry has put on Catwalk several times now, and my only suggestion would be to have added more dancing to the live band aspect, which was awesome to see toward the end.

You’ll definitely want to check out one of Scorpius’ upcoming shows, including their classic stand-out A Vampire Tale (which I’ve always loved seeing.) Find the full Scorpius schedule here.

‘A Bloody Mary Christmas’ sells out Space 55

The 4-year-old A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55 got new life breathed into it, as new actresses took on the roles of the three lifelong friends living in Sun City during the holidays.

A Bloody Mary ChristmasWhile I’ve always loved watching the founding members on stage as Blanche, Bertha and Mabel (Shawna Franks, Jacque Arend and Stacey Reed, who also serve as writers), it was neat to see a new cast interpret the ladies. This year’s trio starred Toni Jourdan, Elizabeth Athetis and Leslie Barton, who played the memorable friends who have no problem swearing up a storm or singing about their affection for alcohol.

A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55Tonight is the last night for the 2013 season of the play written by Denny Guge and directed by Kevin Flanagan, and the show is already sold out. I love seeing so many senior citizens in the audience for a community theater show in downtown Phoenix — next, they should go see some improv at The Torch Theatre.

Following A Bloody Mary Christmas, which hits the stage at 7 p.m., is 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe at 9:30 p.m. This is one of the coolest theater productions ever, where anyone who goes on stage gets seven minutes to do whatever they please — no auditions are required. You never know what you’re going to see, and I highly recommend it. Get tickets here.

‘Night of the Chicken 3’ at Space 55 a fun time for both kids and adults

Night of the Chicken 3 is a great way for kids and adults alike to get in the Halloween spirit. The play at Space 55, modeled after old school radio dramas that have homemade sound effects galore, features an ensemble cast revolving around the character of Andi, a high schooler who is prone to turning into a “werechicken” during times of high stress.

Night of the Chicken 3I’d never seen a play in the “radio drama” style, and it was really fun to watch as each castmate came up to the mic, script in hand, while a sound effects duo used everything from brightly colored fans to signify the werechicken transformation, to homemade grass to ruffle whenever a character was walking through a field. The sound effects were probably my favorite part of the show, with a table of diverse objects that created the perfect sonic backdrop to the spooky, yet totally kid-appropriate, action happening on stage.

Night of the Chicken 3It’s no wonder the first incarnation of the play came back in 2009 — the story is timeless, fun and perfect for getting excited about Halloween. Catch it tonight, Friday, October 18 and tomorrow, Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Space 55 in Phoenix. For more details, go here.

‘Rent’ an iconic Broadway musical now at Phoenix Theatre

No matter how many times I see Rent, I don’t think I will ever get sick of the iconic musical. I first was exposed to it through the movie, then saw it on Broadway (amazing!), then saw it here in town four years ago by Nearly Naked Theatre at Phoenix Theatre. It’s back at Phoenix Theatre through Saturday, September 15, and if you’ve never seen the musical, this is a solid production. (Thanks to my friend Meaghan for taking me — read her review of the show here.)

'Rent' at Phoenix TheatreGoing from seeing Rent in the Phoenix Little Theatre to the bigger stage definitely made the props and stage set-up have a bigger impact. The whole ensemble was pretty vocally talented. There were definitely some disappointingly pitchy moments from some of the main cast members, but the more talented actors playing characters such as Roger and Mimi, plus, some stand-out ensemble members, made up for them.

Even though the musical is nearly 20 years old, I think Rent‘s story is timeless because it has a heavy focus on friendships and relationships. Plus, the music is super-catchy and will make you dance in your seat. For tickets, go here.

Circus Americana by Taylor Circus Stars hits Herberger Theater Center

This past Monday night, I got to attend a preview of Circus Americana at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix as part of the Yelp Elite — special shout-out to their Phoenix community manager Lindsey Fosse, who is awesome and fosters a great local Yelp community here in the Valley.

Circus Americana Herberger TheaterThe circus was put on by locals Taylor Circus Stars, who have six members from the family in the show. Think of Circus Americana more of a Cirque du Soleil vein, with a focus on gymnastics, clowning humor and dance. There was an elephant who made an appearance, but it was fake — don’t expect anything Ringling Bros.-scale.

The circus has a fantastical story, which takes audience members to a holiday-themed world full of ballerinas and Santa, and then a pirate world complete with a huge ship that doubles as a trampoline. A short intro story in the beginning shows kids asking Santa for what they want for Christmas, which then morphs into several scenes of everything from tightrope walking and contortionism to aerial stunts and cute comedy scenes.

For being a local production, I thought the flow of the show was great and that there was a lot of talent from the performers — many times, my mouth was left hanging open, and I thought the show overall was a lot of fun. Kids should really enjoy it, and it’s great for families. There were a couple of ways the show could have been improved — for example, I would have preferred not to see stagehands in regular clothes, not costumes, switching things in the set through the show. And the production is definitely corny — but so are the holidays, and the stunts definitely made it entertaining for me.

The show runs through Sunday, December 23, and tickets range from $24-$52. For tickets to the show, go here.

Bully Mammoth spreads holiday cheer at Tempe Center for the Arts

Man, it’s great when local comedians make the holidays laughable. Just like A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55 has brought some naughtiness to the holiday season, local sketch comedy troupe Bully Mammoth spread their own version of holiday cheer this past weekend at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Bully Mammoth at Tempe Center for the Arts

The group performs rehearsed sketches, and for this show, all of them were holiday-themed. There was a hysterical bit about how silly Christmas traditions are created, a scene involving broken toys, and a sketch involving a new baby Messiah with a mustache. The variety of topics and characters were great, and their live show is way better than watching SNL on television.

Catch them next time on Friday, February 8 At Tempe Center for the Arts. For more information, go here.

‘A Bloody Mary Christmas’ at Space 55 makes the holiday bearable

There’s nothing that says “Christmas spirit” more than three old woman who love drinking alcohol. As someone who hates the holiday season, A Bloody Mary Christmas musical at Space 55 is actually something merry-themed I can get behind. There may be Christmas decorations all over the stage, but the local, independent production that’s been going strong for 3 years now is sassy fun that even the grumpiest Scrooge can enjoy.

a bloody mary christmas at space 55The play follows three Sun City residents and lady roommates who are expected to be evicted on Christmas Day because they’ve failed to pay their HOA fees. There’s the hyper-sexual lady, the lonely lady with no family and the lady who’s been married more than 10 times but who now considers booze her greatest love. As the trio struggles to come up with their money, they reflect on their lives together and relish what will be their last holiday season living together. Interspersed between the sassy dialogue are cute, original songs (as well as loads of profanity and sex talk.)

It’s wonderful to see a black box theater production still have such great success year after year, and the audience, which contained many senior citizens the opening night I went, laughed out loud throughout and really seemed to enjoy it. It runs through December 15 on Friday and Saturday nights, and tickets cost $15 or $12 when you bring a can of food to donate. For more information, go here.

Arizona Pro Arte Ensemble a dazzling musical experience

If you like visual art, music or both, you’ll love a performance by the Arizona Pro Arte Ensemble. Formed in 2004 as the Scottsdale Baroque Orchestra, the group combines beautiful classical music with visual art. I saw them perform Down the Rabbit Hole last night at the Paradise Valley United Methodist Church, playing classical works by Haydn, Beethovhen and more in front of late 18th century art and the 1915 silent film, Alice in Wonderland.

arizona pro arte ensembleThe orchestra consisted of about 40 talented musicians, who conveyed energy and passion for the music they were playing in their deft and exuberant moves. In the first act, we watched the orchestra while two screens full of British art from the 18th century played in the background, giving context to the art of Hayden’s time, as well as a visual representation of him in portrait form. The artwork made the music that much richer, and I almost felt transported to the time. It was a lot of fun to take in.

The next act featured a variety of classical music, including works by Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Alice in Wonderland was delightfully trippy, and it was really neat to see a movie from this time — with great special effects, I might add. The orchestra’s soundtrack was absolutely perfect, and there was even an original song by the Arizona Pro Arte composer in residence, Andrew Paul Jackson, which was beautiful.

Arizona Pro Arte EnsembleThe whole show was incredibly fun to watch, and at only $15 a ticket, it seems like a steal compared to traditional symphony shows. All the musicians were incredibly talented, and each show features a visual aspect, such as the live artists they’ve had in the past. Arizona Pro Arte Ensemble performs the same show tonight at Victory Lutheran Church in Mesa. For more information on Arizona Pro Arte Ensemble, go here.